Sunday, August 26, 2012

I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art. I don't do that so much anymore.

I think all of us know someone who is completely full of shit. I knew this kid growing up, who couldn't speak for more than a minute without saying something that everyone in the room knew was a flat-out lie. Somehow, no one ever called him on it. We would just roll our eyes and try to exit the conversation immediately, but after years, his shit wore pretty thin.

In sixth grade, as only some really cool eleven year-old boys could, we both entered a poetry contest, and this bastard won with some poignant shit about early American settlers. I was quietly pissed, not because I lost, but that the poem he wrote was actually good. Years later, this jerk-off would surprise no one when he told me he had simply copied it out of a book. F--ker.

Exit Through the Gift Shop, shockingly, isn't about shitty middle-school poetry, but rather the burgeoning pseudo-credibility of the Street Art phenomenon. Banksy, probably the most influential street artist ever, assembled this documentary as equal parts history lesson and cautionary tale. Both parts exist by focusing on this fascinating French dude, Thierry Guetta (who goes on to be known as Mr. Brainwash).

Thierry spent years following (and filming) a slew of street artists as they did their thing all over the world. Thierry began his fascination with street art watching his cousin Invader place old-school game characters all over Paris. From there, Thierry would follow and film other artist with a possible goal of one day creating a documentary about street art. As Thierry records these notoriously secretive artists (he considers it collecting), he longs to meet the enigmatic Banksy, clearly the best in the field. Eventually, this happens, and Thierry becomes a part of Banksy's ultra-secretive crew. But instead of a happy ending and a watchable documentary, things sort of go off the rails.

I can sense I'm not doing this film justice, but trust me, this is a very interesting documentary. Days after watching it, I'm still not sure what the truth is. Thierry is portrayed as a bit of a villain, but maybe he just exposed the whole medium as ultimately superfluous (but I guess this speaks to the what is art? question, too).

That idea suggests some level of dastardly intelligence of Thierry's part, and watching this film certainly doesn't make that clear. Is this guy really an artist? A genius? Or simply incredibly lucky due to an insane ability to never stop? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but this was one of the few times where I desperately wanted a little post-movie discussion to sort things out.

Well, they usually don't hang around at art shows, but we might as well check in with the Yays and Boos anyway. Your thoughts, gents?

This is the same setup I use when I create my posts.
  • Thierry is a pretty funny guy. He literally films everything, even Shaq. He also is very ballsy, too. Admirably so.
  • Zeus' street shadows are really cool.
  • Shepard Fairey's work was very interesting, too. I never knew that was Andre the Giant I was obeying.
  • The whole Disneyland thing was intense. Loved the term Mickey Mouse security team.
  • Inadvertently making 10 million quid is pretty much one of the coolest things ever. Even if Thierry didn't quite grasp the severity of what he was being shown.
  • And finally, Banksy. His art is very interesting and inspiring, but he also comes off as a guy dealing with the problem of creating the monster that destroyed him. Well, at least destroyed a part of him. He handles it, though. 
You know, I like the danger.
  • Thierry, in addition to coming off as a bit of a fraud, also comes off as the world's worst/most absentee father. Seriously, man. Stay home for a minute.
  • Thierry's film. Apparently Life Remote Control is a bit of a tough watch.
  • I began to question the idea of whether this stuff was indeed art when I saw how some of it was created by teams of people with computers. I'm looking at you, Mr. Brainwash.
At the end of this flick, there is a general consensus of what the f--k just happened? permeating the entire story - and I liked it. No one was irate, just confused and perhaps a little disappointed at how everything went down after so much time had gone by. This is exactly the feeling I had when I found out that a-hole friend of mine had faked his award-winning poem in sixth grade. It hadn't been art. He'd just copied someone else.



  1. Very enjoyable documentary. If it even was a documentary. There was plenty of talks that this was fake and Banksy was pulling a number on us.

    However, the most interesting thing to me was at the Oscars. Rumours were flying on what Bansky would do if he won or what pranks he would pull off just by being there. Unfortunately nothing happened.

    1. After I watched it, I read up a little to discover about what you're hinting at. If this is all made up, even better.

      I wish I would have known about this at Oscar time. I really didn't know what it was I was watching when I popped this one in. I rented based on a reading the first two lines of a review (and seeing it had a short runtime!).

  2. Good review here. I agree with asrap, I think this is a very unique documentary, but who knows if it even is that? But, like you say, that would kind of make the entire film even better. One long, elaborate trick at the hands of Banksy. We're just the puppets watching admiringly.

  3. Great review! Saw this movie quite a long time ago but I liked it, didn't find it particularly memorable but it fucked with my mind, you know what is real what is not, kinda like being in the Matrix :)

    1. As someone who watches a lot of utter shit, I was pretty stoked to watch something that at least had a message, hence my excitement.

      And yes, bonus points for the mindf--k. Love it.